The National Interest Foundation Newsletter, Issue 230

The National Interest Foundation Newsletter

Issue 230, March 29, 2024

Welcome to our NIF Newsletter. This week, we analyze the United Nations Security Council’s approval of a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, examine U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent interview warning Israel of consequences if it launches a destructive military assault on Rafah, and delve into a new Gallup poll which found that a majority of Americans now oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza.

UN Security Council Approves a Resolution Demanding an Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza

The UN Security Council passed the resolution, with the United States abstaining rather than using its veto power, and all other members voting in favor. (Photo from AFP)

UN Security Council Approves a Resolution Demanding an Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza

Earlier this week, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The measure was approved, as the United States declined to exercise its veto power and abstained instead, with all other members of the UN body voting in favor. The resolution’s passage marked a significant development after four previous unsuccessful attempts to do so, with three of these being vetoed by the United States, and the most recent failure coming last Friday when China and Russia vetoed a U.S. proposal. It also adds to the growing criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza, and serves to further isolate them on the global stage. The United States’ decision to abstain from the UN resolution vote and allow for its approval prompted an angry reaction from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who decided to cancel a planned visit by Israeli officials to Washington D.C. this week. Over the past couple of days, it was revealed that Netanyahu reversed his decision and is planning on sending a delegation of two Israeli officials to Washington D.C. as early as next week for talks regarding a possible military assault on Rafah.

The Gaza ceasefire resolution was tabled by the 10 non-permanent members of the UN Security Council: Algeria, Ecuador, Guyana, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, South Korea, and Switzerland. In addition to demanding an immediate ceasefire, it expresses serious concern regarding the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza and calls for more efforts to increase the flow of aid, lift the barriers to the provision of assistance at the necessary scale, and protect civilians. According to UN figures, more than 90 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been displaced since the onset of the war, and conditions resulting from Israeli bombardment have left the enclave on the brink of famine. A report released last week by an international authority on food security found that famine is likely to occur in northern Gaza by May and could spread across the rest of the territory by July if humanitarian conditions do not improve. Furthermore, over 32,000 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s military assault since October, an alarming number of which have been children.

Analysts have pointed out that while implementation of the resolution is what is ultimately needed, the mere vote and passage in itself is significant because it demonstrates that U.S. policy is moving closer towards the stronger recent rhetoric that has been used to condemn Israel’s human rights and international law violations in Gaza. The fact that the United States’ abstention came despite threats against it from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is also noteworthy. Now, concrete and tangible actions are required; given the dire humanitarian situation, significant political pressure must be applied to alleviate the mass suffering in Gaza. Following the passage of the resolution, the ceasefire should be implemented and honored, as Security Council resolutions are international law and binding on all UN members. It is hoped that this resolution will pave the way for an enduring ceasefire that will safeguard civilians, allow the entry of aid, prevent forced displacement, and work toward the release of hostages. To achieve this goal, human rights groups such as Amnesty International have called for the United States to suspend arms transfers to Israel and leverage their relationship with them to implement a sustained ceasefire and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches civilians in need. While the resolution is binding, Israel has shown no signs of complying with the ceasefire. Israel continued to attack Gaza just one day after the resolution, and Israeli officials have stated that they have no intention of abiding by the resolution. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized the importance of the resolution’s implementation and Israel’s compliance, expressing that it “must be implemented” and that “failure would be unforgivable.”

The UN Security Council resolution reflects the international community’s desire to end Israel’s War on Gaza, with most countries agreeing that at the very least, it was a step in the right direction. While some of the ambassadors took issue with certain language in the resolution, it was almost unanimously agreed that an approved demand for a ceasefire was a welcomed development. Still, a few did not believe that the resolution went far enough. Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya, for example, wished for the inclusion of the word “permanent” in the resolution – believing that even if they were to halt them, Israel may resume military operations in Gaza after Ramadan ends on April 9th. Human rights groups have also pushed for implementation of the resolution. Human Rights Watch UN Director Louis Charbonneau said that Israel “needs to immediately respond” to the resolution “by facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid, ending its starvation of Gaza’s civilian population, and halting unlawful attacks.” The resolution should be obeyed to prevent further human rights abuses; if it is not abided by, the UN Security Council may be forced to deliberate on punitive measures for Israel.

U.S. Vice President Harris Warns Israel of Consequences If It Launches a Destructive Military Assault on Rafah

Vice President Harris is one of many U.S. officials who have spoken out against a potential Israeli assault on Rafah. (Photo from Reuters)

U.S. Vice President Harris Warns Israel of Consequences If It Launches a Destructive Military Assault on Rafah

In a recent interview conducted by ABC News, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris warned Israel against an assault on the Palestinian city of Rafah, which experts contend would be calamitous in exacerbating the already dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza and resulting in the killing of many displaced civilians who are taking refuge there. The interview was conducted surrounding statements from various U.S. elected officials, including U.S. Senators and President Biden, who have been increasingly critical of Israel’s military operations in Gaza and fervently oppose an attack on Rafah. Israel’s detrimental War on Gaza has killed upwards of 32,000 Palestinians, a horrifying figure that would escalate with an assault on Rafah and a failure to allow more humanitarian aid to enter the besieged enclave. Currently, around 1.5 million people are taking shelter in the southern Gaza city, many of whom were directed to flee there for safety from the Israeli onslaught on northern Gaza.

Vice President Harris addressed these humanitarian concerns, telling ABC News “I have studied the maps – there’s nowhere for those folks to go,” reaffirming the importance of preventing a ground offensive. When asked if assaulting Rafah constituted a red line for the U.S. support of Israel, Harris emphasized that “we have been clear in multiple conversations [that] any major military operation in Rafah would be a huge mistake.” When pushed on whether the United States would consider repercussions for Israel, she commented that “I am ruling out nothing,” suggesting that there may be consequences for Israel if they decide to still proceed with the military assault on Rafah. Vice President Harris is just one of the latest and many U.S. officials who have criticized Israel’s plans to invade Rafah. Recently, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for Israel to hold new elections, stating that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “an obstacle to peace.” President Biden has repeatedly warned Netanyahu against a Rafah military offensive, and last week U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that a ground assault on Rafah would be both “a mistake” and “unnecessary.”

Relations between the United States and Israel have continued to sour following the recent passing of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) ceasefire resolution, in which the U.S. abstained. Netanyahu had said that he would no longer be sending a delegation to Washington D.C., where they were supposed to discuss the Rafah offensive, but then later reversed his decision and stated that he is planning on sending a delegation of two Israeli officials to Washington D.C. as early as next week for talks regarding the possible military assault on Rafah. Still, this was the first time that the U.S. had not used its veto power to strike down a ceasefire resolution brought up in the UNSC. The White House has denied that their abstention reflected a policy change, although experts suggest that Biden will no longer provide unconditional support, due to domestic discontent and international pressures. White House National Security Spokesperson John Kirby said that Israel’s initial decision to cancel the delegation was unfortunate, but that the Biden administration would continue to communicate concerns about Israel’s policies, expressing that “nothing has changed about our view that a major ground offensive in Rafah would be a major mistake.” This growing schism between the United States and Israel signals a situation which may deteriorate into a destructive Israeli assault on Rafah.

Despite warnings from an array of U.S. leaders including President Biden and Vice President Harris, Netanyahu has not strayed from his intention on attacking Rafah. In response to criticisms of his plan to initiate a ground assault on Rafah, Netanyahu has claimed that “we have no way to defeat Hamas without entering Rafah,” a task that experts agree is wholly impossible. When addressing U.S. Secretary of State Blinken’s comments, Netanyahu added that “I told him that I hope we would do this with U.S. support but, if necessary, we will do it alone,” indicating that the Israeli prime minister is hellbent on attacking Rafah, no matter the cost. While Netanyahu claims that Israel is willing to go it alone, the country has historically relied on the sponsorship of the United States, with the U.S. providing nearly $4 billion in aid to Israel annually and hundreds of arms transfers since early October alone. In light of growing evidence of Israeli human rights abuses and war crimes in Gaza, these arms sales have been criticized by U.S. lawmakers such as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, and many others. These Congressmembers have cited a U.S. law that states weapons transfers to Israel should be illegal due to Israel’s continued blocking of the flow of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza. Other countries such as Canada have taken measures to ensure that their weapons are not being used by Israel to harm civilians. Recently, Canada’s parliament passed a non-binding motion to cease the further authorization and transfer of arms exports to Israel. Social justice and peace activists hope that policy shifts like this are marking a turn of the tide whereby members of the international community are beginning to push back against Israeli aggression and violations.

New Gallup Poll Finds That a Majority of Americans Now Oppose Israel’s Actions in Gaza

The results of the poll are from a survey conducted earlier this month. (Photo from AP)

New Gallup Poll Finds That a Majority of Americans Now Oppose Israel’s Actions in Gaza

An insightful new March Gallup poll has found that a majority of Americans now oppose Israel’s War on Gaza by a solid margin. When participants in the survey were asked whether they approve or disapprove of the military actions that Israel has taken in Gaza, the recent results showed that 55% disapprove, 36% approve, and 9% have no opinion. The findings represent a notable shift in public opinion from the November 2023 poll, in which 50% of respondents approved, 45% disapproved, and 4% had no opinion. The Gallup poll also revealed interesting results along partisan lines. Republicans who disapprove of Israel’s military actions increased from 23% in November 2023 to 30% in March 2024. Even more notably, there has been a dramatic shift in Independent and Democrat opinions on Israeli military action. Back in November, 63% of Democrats and 48% of Independents disapproved of Israeli military action, whereas March results show that a whopping 75% of Democrats and 60% of Independents now do. The data demonstrates that as the war has dragged on and further evidence has emerged regarding Israel’s human rights violations and war crimes in Gaza, public support for Israel has been declining. The humanitarian toll of the conflict has resulted in over 32,000 Palestinians being killed – many of them children – and the entire Gaza Strip on the brink of famine. Compellingly, the new Gallup poll findings can be backed up by a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March, which found that more Americans support providing humanitarian aid to Gaza than they do sending military support to Israel.

As represented in the Gallup poll, U.S. policy regarding the War on Gaza could have a significant impact on the upcoming 2024 election cycle. Gallup has noted that the conflict isn’t ranked highly when Americans are asked to name the most pressing issues facing the United States; however, candidates are at risk of losing key voting blocs – especially among Arab-Americans and young voters who have expressed that they are planning on protesting what is taking place in Gaza by not voting in November. This poses a threat to President Biden’s 2024 re-election chances in particular, as he might lose voters in key swing states such as Michigan, where a substantial 13% of Democrats voted “uncommitted” in a protest vote over his position on Gaza. It appears that President Biden’s overall job approval rating hasn’t been largely affected by his stance on Gaza though, with it increasing from 37% in the November survey to 40% now – although Gallup did point out that this was perhaps lifted by Americans’ greater confidence in the U.S. economy.

The new Gallup poll results come as Israel prepares to expand its military campaign into the city of Rafah, where some 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are taking shelter. The plan to invade the border city has been heavily criticized by human rights groups and U.S. elected officials alike, with both warning that a military assault there would exacerbate the already dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Relations between the United States and Israel have begun to fray as a result of differences in the approach to Gaza. Recently, public comments between U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have exposed a growing rift between the two leaders, as well as underlying U.S. frustrations with the lack of Israeli cooperation. Multiple U.S. lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have also expressed their discontent with the Israeli leadership, calling for new elections and emphasizing the need for a humanitarian solution to the crisis in Gaza. In this way, we can see how representatives serve as foreign policy leaders, often making public statements in an attempt to drive public opinion. Likewise, as public opinion continues to shift, more elected officials may begin to speak out against Israel’s military actions to represent their constituents – a cornerstone of representative democracy.

A recent sign of the widening divide between the United States and Israel was the passing of the UN Security Council ceasefire resolution, in which the U.S. abstained instead of vetoing the resolution, effectively letting it go through against the wishes of Israel. In response, Netanyahu initially cancelled a delegation to the U.S. that was intended to discuss the potential military assault on Rafah, but he later reversed his decision and will send two Israeli officials to discuss the matter. Multiple fault lines could result in further U.S.-Israel divisions, and the harmful prospective invasion of Rafah seems to be an especially delicate issue that may serve to severely sour relations.

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